Sean Nealis And The Red Bulls Set For A First Place Showdown With Philadelphia

New York Red Bulls

It’s still very early in the Major League Soccer season, but the Red Bulls are certainly enjoying where they are at the moment.

With a 5-2-3 record and 18 points, the Red Bulls find themselves in second place in the Eastern Conference table heading into Saturday’s first-place showdown on the road against the Philadelphia Union at Subaru Park.  With a win, and the three points that come along with it, the Red Bulls would vault past the Union and into first place in the conference.

To put the Red Bulls’ 10-game start in perspective, you have to compare it with the previous three seasons…

2019: 3-5-2

2020: 3-5-2

2021: 4-5-1

So, certainly what they’ve done this season has been a welcome sight.

(Ben Solomon/New York Red Bulls)

“It’s almost like a relief,” said defender Sean Nealis during a phone conversation this week with New York Sports Day.  “We feel good about ourselves.  We have a lot of quality on the team.”

And with this terrific start to the season, the Red Bulls have a chance early in the season to send a message on Saturday night against the Union.

“I think it’s a huge match for our mindset,” said Nealis.  “I think it will make a statement to the rest of the league that we’re for real and we’re here to make things happen this year.”

This will be the first meeting of the season between these two Eastern Conference and New Jersey Turnpike rivals and the Red Bulls will be looking to start and new and better trend against Philadelphia.

Over the last three seasons (2019, 2020 and 2021), the Red Bulls are 1-4-2 against the Union in regular season play.

The Red Bulls are well aware that this match will be no easy task.

“It’s going to be a tough matchup,” said Nealis.  “They kind of have the upper hand over the past few years but I think we feel good about ourselves.  You saw last week against LAFC they’re clinical in transitional moments.  I think just defensively being ready to put out those fires and stop any transition and any momentum that they have throughout the game is going to be pivotal.”

(Ben Solomon/New York Red Bulls)

Based on the first ten games of the season, the Red Bulls figure to feel right at home on the road in Chester, Pennsylvania on Saturday night.   So far in 2022, the Red Bulls are a perfect 5-0 on the road but they’re 0-2-3 at home at Red Bull Arena.

For the Red Bulls, it’s a bit strange to be “Road Warriors”.

“Yeah, a little bit,” said Nealis.  “We’ve been maybe a little maybe lucky on the road and maybe our mental approach on the road has been a little sharper and we’ve been having more of that competitive edge on the road.”

It’s always a must-see event, in any sport, when teams from New York/New Jersey and Philadelphia square off.  That certainly applies on Saturday when the Red Bulls and Union take to the pitch with the conference penthouse on the line.

“They have a lot of talent,” said Nealis.  “We have a lot of talent.  We’re excited for the matchup.”

An Important Addition To The Red Bulls Jersey

When the Red Bulls played to a 1-1 draw against Portland this past Saturday at Red Bull Arena, there was some new and exciting affixed to the right sleeve on their jerseys.  On that night, the Red Bulls unveiled OANDA Corporation as their official jersey sleeve patch partner.

OANDA is a globally award-winning leader in online trading services and this is their first entry into sports marketing.

A partnership like this is huge for the Red Bulls, MLS and the sport of soccer.

“I think it’s great for the league that there’s companies that want to all invest,” said Nealis.  “As you’ve seen on the field, the quality has improved, the attendance has improved and the league is only going to keep going up from here.  I think it’s awesome to see, growing up playing soccer in America, how far the league has come and how far soccer has grown in American and I hope it keeps growing.  I’m glad to be playing in the MLS.”

The Red Bulls and OANDA agreed to a multiyear partnership and the patch will not only be included on select jerseys sold at retail locations but it will also be included in EA Sports FIFA video game series.

 

MOVING ON

The Red Bulls advanced to the Round of 16 of the U.S. Open Cup with a 3-0 4th Round win over D.C. United Tuesday night at Audio Field in Washington, DC.  Luquinhas put RBNY on top 1-0 with goal during stoppage time just before the end of the first half.  John Tolkin added a goal in the 48th minute and then Zach Ryan closed out the scoring with a 68th minute tally.  Goalkeeper Ryan Meara notched the clean sheet with his franchise record 15th U.S. Open Cup appearance between the pipes.

OH BROTHER

Aside from the great start to the season for his team, this has certainly been an extra special season for Red Bulls defender Sean Nealis who now gets to call his younger brother Dylan a teammate.  Back in December, the Red Bulls acquired the younger Nealis, also a defender, from Nashville SC in exchange for $125,000 in General Allocation Money.

(Ben Solomon/New York Red Bulls)

Needless to say, the Nealis household back in Massapequa on Long Island, as well as other family and friends, are ecstatic about this.

How cool is it that two brothers from Long Island are teammates for one of the area’s MLS clubs?

“It’s awesome,” said Sean Nealis.  “My parents and family and friends have been loving it.  We’ve had a lot of family come to home games.  My parents are elated.  They’re just happy to see us both on the field and it’s been a really cool moment.”

This is only the second time that the Sean (25) and Dylan (23) have been teammates.  The last time it happened was in 2012 for the Massapequa High School club that went on to win the New York State title.

That was a great memory and there’s now more to come.

“A lot of cool pictures are going to be hung in my parents’ house,” said the elder Nealis brother.  “It’s awesome and hopefully we can have some continued success.”

About the Author

Peter Schwartz

Peter covers the Islanders for New York Sports Day while also writing about general sports in the New York/New Jersey area. In addition to his column, Peter also hosts his “Schwartz On Sports” podcast as he interviews players, coaches, and other sports personalities. He is also currently a sports anchor for WFAN Radio, CBS Sports Radio, and WCBS 880 radio while also serving as the public address announcer for the New York Cosmos soccer club. Peter spent 8 years as the radio play by play voice for the New York Dragons of the Arena Football League. He was also the radio play by play announcer for the XFL’s NY/NJ Hitmen in 2001 and the radio play by play announcer for the New York Saints of the Major Indoor Lacrosse League from 1993 to 1996. You can follow Peter on Twitter at @SchwartzSports

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